Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Tomas Giorello
Colors: Diego Rodriguez
Letters: A Larger World Studios
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine, Lucas Troya, Tonci Zonjic, Kenneth Rocafort and Philip Tan
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I read a couple of the early issues of Ninjak when it was launched under the Acclaim Comics brand in the 1990s, and it was some standard super-hero fare, featuring a teenage hero clearly designed to evoke memories of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Oh, but how the property has changed now that it’s changed hands a couple of times. I really had no idea what Ninja-K was about when I scanned these pages, and I was surprised and struck by what I found. What impressed the most about this issue was how accessible it is. This reads like the final chapter of the opening story arc, but I had absolutely no problem catching up on the story through the well-crafted exposition. Ninja-K is an adeptly executed super-hero comic, immersed in the espionage genre.
Colin King, MI-6’s current ninja-trained covert agent, has teamed with one of his predecessors, a damaged and driven man codenamed Ninja-C, to infiltrate and end the Assimilation Bureau, a relic of British intelligence from the Cold War that eliminated familial and friendship connections in the lives of its ninja agents to ensure focus and loyalty. Ninja-C is out for revenge, and Colin, Ninja-K, aims to ensure the bureau can’t ruin others’ lives and to discover if anyone has wreaked similar havok in his world. Ninja-K finds himself challenges on two fronts: handling the defences of the bureau while also ensuring the maniacal Ninja-C doesn’t cross the line.
Tomas Giorello’s art is appropriately dark in tone, given the black-ops qualities of the characters. I was often reminded here of the style of Tom (The Spectre) Mandrake, and I rather enjoyed it. Giorello conveys the action clearly even though he boasts a fluid style and an approach to panel layouts that seems the figures and events flowing and overlapping. He also conveys a cinematic quality to the action-oriented story. He treads a fine line between a surreal, noir atmosphere and a sense of realism in terms of figure movement and the convincing look of the tech elements.
The original name of the title character (at least the one with which I was previously familiar) was in keeping with the youthful energy of the concept, so it’s interesting to see how this latest incarnation of Valiant Entertainment has pivoted away from the lighter leanings of the name and concept. Ninja spy agents classified with ascending letters of the alphabet certainly seems logical, but to be honest, “Ninja-K” seems a little forced. The effort to stick with a version of the original name is a bit of a stretch, and I don’t know that it’s the best title for a book.
Though Ninja-K is dressed in the trappings of the super-hero genre and is issued by a super-hero comics publisher, Christos Gage is really crafting an spy-genre epic here, and that merging of genres really appealed to me. Despite the implausible notion of ninja agents, Gage crafts a convincing tone, and I couldn’t help but think of Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country comics as I read this one. Making the characters British and setting the action in London also seem like a smart move, helping to further set Ninja-K apart. One so often expects to see America-centric characters and backdrops in mainstream comics, so happening upon an American book that embraces something else is a pleasant surprise.
Gage has developed a script that advances and resolves the plotlines he established in the previous four issues, but he’s also careful to ensure someone coming into this comic cold — a reader such as myself — can still appreciate and follow what’s going on. I was struck by just how accessible this script is, and that the communication of the exposition isn’t so overt or overwhelming that it interferes with the flow of the story. The script here and the background information on the credits page gives new readers everything they need to appreciate and enjoy the story.
The concept behind this story — that people, even super-secret spies — require and crave connections with other people is one that enables the audience to connect with the impossible players at the centre of the drama and action. The story plays out somewhat predictably — at least when it comes to Ninja-C’s actions — so I didn’t really get a strong sense of suspense as I read the issue. I was won over more by the narrative voice of the title character. His drive and dedication to what’s right makes him an attractive character and worthy protagonist. This was a solid comic, and it’s piqued my interest about what’s to come. 7/10